What’s the first thing you do when you look at a newspaper or a news website?
If you’re anything like a human being you’ll probably look at the headlines. That’s what they’re there for… to attract your attention. To make you see what the NEWS wants you to see.
If you’re a bit cannier you might already know what you’re looking for. You might browse around to find it. Perhaps search, perhaps narrow by category… you know. Deciding for yourself what it is that is of interest to you in the world?
Of course you might not be like a human being.
You might be more like a mindless sheep looking to fill yet another wasted hour of your life as you count down to corpsetime.
In your bovine fascination of this human world you’ve stumbled upon you might decide to look and see what OTHER PEOPLE find interesting and use that as a basis of forming your own stupid opinion and thoughts. Some people aren’t content enough with having the media to tell you what to think – you want to also see what the media are telling other people what to think so that they can think like them as well.
Yes. That’s right – I’m talking about the “most read/watched/shared” menu that sits on virtually all news sites. Usually in a little box on the right hand side of the page (I’ve tested this on a number of sites, it’s not just the BBC), so that as you read left to right you end up gawping in wonderment at what the rest of the world thinks they should be looking at beginning an eternal and ever decreasing cycle between themselves driving the media drivng them driving the media ….gah!
I don’t know what the worst thing about these boxes is. In principle they should shirley reflect exactly what the news headlines are – shirley! The public go to news sites to find out about breaking news. Breaking news is usually headline news. So ergo the box should be the front page of a news site in miniature.
But this isn’t the case is it? Because the media love throwing up little human interest stories or bleeding out some nice disaster porn that attracts just that little bit more human interest than reporting the flat and depressing fact that something important and probably tragic is happening.
As I write this the second “most read” story on the BBC website is about Chris Moyles breaking a Guinness by having his show run for eternity or something. This is AHEAD of the imposition of a no fly zone in Libya. So the internet viewing public effectively think it is MORE IMPORTANT that a radio DJ can fill the hole in time between songs for a long time than for multiple countries to be put on a war footing in the middle east.
On the “most shared” a story about someone diving into a paddling pool is top. That’s right – more important than the nuclear alert in Japan. A MAN DIVING INTO A PADDLING POOL.
Of course you wouldn’t say this is the fault of the news… this is the fault of the piddle-braned-public. The ones who watch “you’ve been framed” and go “aaahhhh” whenever they show a picture of a pet or baby – even one that goes on to become a murderer. But OF COURSE it is the fault of the news. The news report this. The news opens it’s mouth and vomits this into the face of their readers shouting “LOOK – A MAN DIVING INTO A PADDLING POOL” and there are just enough people in the world who go “ooh really?”. These are the same people who send texts with emoticons or forward on emails that say “you know you’re dead when…” or fill their facebook feeds with pointless games and apps … you know who you are!
As revolutions were toppling governments in the middle east in February it should always be remembered that Time Magazine, one of the most important and most influential journals in the world, had, as the most read article on its website, a story about JUSTIN BEIBER’S HAIRCUT. It really puts the uncertain future of an entire region into perspective when a small child’s haircut is seen as more important by the net viewing public.
But the worst thing about the “most read” bits of the news is that they DRIVE THE NEWS as well.
Journalists go there and see that little square box and say “ooh I’ve not covered that bloke in a Mankini kicking a dolphin story, but it seems pretty popular” and they blindly go ahead and cover it.
I know this because the BBC occasionally used to have to reset its “most viewed” server. Whenever it did it brought up a story that I’d press released years ago as the number one story. Without warning (or even reading the date) other press woud begin faithfully reproducing the story again and aagin – even though it was THREE YEARS OLD. I’d get calls from journalists asking for interviews for a 3-year-old story simply because the BBC server had reset.
Now that’s lazy! And Stupids